This is part of The Shadow League's Women's History Month In Focus series celebrating excellence in sports, entertainment and culture.
Jody Watley is a name in American music that is widely recognized, yet still not fully appreciated. Her ingenious, stylish videos and multi-threat talents raised the bar not just for dance music, but for women in the business - especially women of color.
Before she ever became a singing sensation, Watley and her partner Jeffrey Daniel were the most recognizable dancers on the hit TV Soul Train back in the late '70s.
Eventually, they formed the group Shalamar and Watley’s captivating voice, and dancing ability, provided the feminine flavor to a hitting musical formula. After making a ton of hits with Shalamar, Jody embarked on her solo career in 1984. She moved to England where she dabbled in modeling, and worked on her music until 1986 when she signed with MCA Records, releasing her self-titled debut album in 1987.
This is the 30-year anniversary of Watley’s breakout debut that garnered her the prestigious Grammy Award for Best New Artist and nominations for four MTV Video Music Awards and three Soul Train Awards. Her uptempo brand of music moved the masses and flooded the clubs as she was the #1 Dance Club Play artist on Billboards for 1987.
Her debut single, “Looking for a New Love” (US #2, #1 Dance, #1 R&B, UK #13) went gold and her career soared from there. She has sold millions of albums and to this day is considered a totally unique artist with her own lane of contributions to music, in particular the dance, hip-hop, pop connection.
Jody was born in Chicago to a mom who sang and played the piano, and a traveling Evangelist father whose radio shows had gathered quite a following among Black music’s elite. He spent a lot of time with soul giants Sam Cooke, Johnny Taylor, Joe Tex and Jackie Wilson, who was also Jody‘s godfather.
She was born into an eclectic mix of soul music maestros and prodigies. It was only a matter of time before she laid her own path resulting in six Top Ten Pop Hits, 15 Top 40 R&B Hits, 13 Dance Hits and nine #1 Singles. A true American superstar with a beauty, sound and fashion sense that is powerful, fun, transcending and forever impactful is definitely worthy of acknowledgment during Women’s History Month.